Interview: Collecting Archival Fashion with Jonathan Right-Now
The terms “archival” and “vintage” have been getting thrown around quite a bit lately.
Many designers who are still actively creating today (Simons, Slimane, Miyashita, Kawakubo, etc.) possess outputs that feature highly coveted, highly sought-after pieces. This appreciation for the archives opens up a two-way street - it develops demand for these older works, while simultaneously opening connections and references between old and new.
How old does something need to be to be considered archive? Riccardo Tisci’s first collections at Givenchy may be considered archive at this point, some 10 years down the line. Or Takahiro Miyashita’s initial collections for Number (N)ine in the late 90s. Or a 1966 YSL Rive Gauche dress. Age aside, many of these designs have transcended their original medium, almost becoming more art than clothing.
Are you buying into the hype or history? When you drop 3 bands on a Virginia Creeper sweater, are you buying it to appreciate the craftsmanship, underlying message or timelessness of the garment? Is your purchase a metaphorical surfboard, relegated to riding the wave of hype currently breaking behind these vintage/archive pieces?
There are many out there who have answered these questions for themselves, seeking out and collecting specific pieces from the oeuvre of their favorite designers.
Enter Jonathan Right-Now, a collector from Toronto with roots that run deep - inspired by Obama drippin’ in Brooks Brothers, to the rebellious sartorial works of Thom Browne, to graffiti, to everything in between. His deep appreciation for these designers shines through as he remarks about some of his most coveted pieces. We spoke to Jonathan about these themes, and got his deeply personal take on collecting archival fashion as we begin to highlight various members of the greater fashion community.
Follow Jonathan on Instagram here.
Can you tell us what archival fashion means, from the mind of a collector?
“Maybe I’d define archival fashion as items from a past era that are super relevant again today or if I could predict it, will be relevant again in the future.”
What about to you personally?
“To me, archival fashion are items that give me a feeling greater than that. I love wearing clothes that have passed through the hands of designers personally, it makes me feel more connected to their process. I love having items that turn heads. I love having items that are particularly rare and unique and that won’t be seen every day.
I compare it to graffiti, which was a scene I was a part of for a chunk of my youth. Graffiti is incredibly impressive to an incredibly small percentage of the population. The average person ignores it, hates it, can’t read it or can’t understand it. But that 0.1% of the population, the artists, turn their heads to look at it/read it/understand it and mimic it. They’re impressed by the size of it, the colors, and the time involved in creating it."
“Most of the stuff I wear or collect may not be considered “cool” to 99.9% of the population. But there are definitely people who connect with it as I walk by.
I also really like the idea of handing down the stuff I’ve collected to my (future) kids. Who knows what fashion will be like then? They might get laughed at for the stuff I collected. But they also might fall in love with it or find some relevance and connection.”
I have a feeling that your future kids are going to be known around school for stunting on their classmates. What got you started down this road?
“What got me started was learning that Obama, and a huge majority of presidents before him dressed in Brooks Brothers. [From the Brooks Brothers site: The tradition of dressing the Chief Executive continued down through subsequent generations. Ulysses S. Grant, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt all wore Brooks Brothers to their inaugurations.]
When Toronto opened its first Brooks Brothers location I wandered into it and found a small section of Black Fleece, designed by Thom Browne for Brooks Brothers. I consumed a ton of it. I started digging around for more info on Thom Browne and fell in love.”
“His F/W 2012 collection (Punks vs. Jocks) is still my favorite runway to date, I actually emailed him directly to ask naively about buying some of the items from that collection (he didn’t respond lol but one of his team members did and told me Thom could re-make any item for a price, well outside my budget). I used to say “Bury me in Thom Browne” before I got my CDG jacket.”
Thom Browne FW12 Punks vs. Jocks
Thom Browne’s work opened up numerous avenues for Jonathan to develop connections with other designers - specifically the early works of Virgil Abloh (at the end of Pyrex and beginning of Off-White) and Shayne Oliver (HBA), black designers who were pushing the envelope of fashion and streetwear culture.
In the grand scheme of things, I’d say you were on that wave pretty early, stunting HBA + Off-White way before the logos were saturated. Appreciation for one designer’s work tends to lead to another and another. How did you get deeper into it?
“I guess it’s all connections in fashion. I started connecting with Raf Simons and Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela (especially the idea of hiding his face/identity, something I’ve been doing for a while) and Hedi Slimane.”
“I feel like if I really sat and thought about it, I could draw out the connections. Thom Browne’s Punks vs Jocks connected with me growing up in the punk scene, Margiela hiding his face, Helmut Lang hiding sexuality underneath the surface of his clothing, Raf Simons celebrating the rebellious youth, Shayne Oliver creating something by and for queer black youth, Hedi Slimane showcasing the rockstar. I realize I’m being very surface level here, there’s more to it than just that.”
Have you got an all-time grail at the moment?
“Hedi Slimane for Dior created one of my all time favorite and sought after grails, the Blood Wound shirt (I was extremely close to getting this one but it slipped through my fingers). And I don’t think he’s just celebrating the rock star lifestyle with a shot through the heart. I think there’s a deeper meaning there.”
Where do you find you have the most luck when looking for a specific piece? (sites, stores, other collectors?)
I’ve honestly had the most luck in two places: Grailed and Facebook.
Grailed has been a blessing and a curse. Archival fashion has come into the limelight recently because of reseller sites like Grailed that have allowed people to buy low and sell high by pushing an idea of rarity or exclusivity, and therefore inflating desire/value to consumers.”
“I’ve taken advantage of this myself tbh. I’ve had listings touting my items with “rarity, exclusivity, limited numbers, sought-after” and other buzzwords that allow for a driven-up price.
There are a couple groups on Facebook that are fairly reliable person-to-person places to buy from but only if you’re able to get references/legit check things. Lots of fake goods pass through the groups, more so than Grailed I’d say.
What about 1 of 1’s, or actual extremely limited items?
“When I’m really looking for something specific, I’ll ask a couple of collectors who have more specific pools to pull from. Michael of ENDYMA is a great example. He’s one of my favorite people to deal with. Michael is to Helmut Lang what David Casavant is to Raf Simons. But they have a difference in business models.”
“Michael is virtually always willing to sell items he collects (after photographing and documenting them), whereas David rents out his pieces to people who connect with him and uses his items in his role as stylist. I dream of having the ability to pull or buy from the David Casavant archive, but I haven’t crossed that bridge. However, I have sold an item to him. That felt good.”
Follow Jonathan on Instagram here.
From the author:
Developing an appreciation for these foundational pieces that stand as pillars in a designer’s history is what makes collecting so special. One can append their own meaning to archive collecting. Whether you acquire a piece for its sentimental/historical significance, or just want to extend its life beyond its previous owner, or (who can blame you, we’re all guilty) build some internet clout, there’s a draw for everyone.
If you’re in the NYC area, be sure to check out the largest archive sale in history - "Time Lapse" - happening at Patron of the New this weekend, September 21 - 23.